Prosecutors in State Courts, 1990 (A BJS Report)

Prosecutors in State Courts, 1990 (A BJS Report)

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992). "Prosecutors in State Courts, 1990 (A BJS Report)." Alaska Justice Forum 9(1): 2-3 (Spring 1992). As of June 1990, approximately 2,300 chief prosecutors employed about 23,000 deputy attorneys for the prosecution of felony cases in state courts. This article presents findings from the National Prosecutor Survey Program (NPSP) conducted in 1990 by BJS, and compares them with findings from a similar national survey conducted in 1974. Based on the BJS report "Prosecutors in State Courts, 1990," NCJ-134500.

During the year ending June 30, 1990, approximately 2,300 chief prosecutors employed about 23,000 deputy attorneys for the prosecution of felony cases in state courts. The prosecutors served the nation's 3,109 counties and independent c1t1es, obtaining convictions on about 668,000 felonies, according to an estimate from a nationwide survey of felony cases in 1988.

Chief prosecutors employed on average 10 assistant prosecutors and served districts with an average population of about 111,000 people. Their offices obtained about 300 felony convictions a year. One in five chief prosecutors had responsibility for more than one county.

These findings are from the National Prosecutor Survey Program (NPSP) of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the first national survey of prosecutors since 1974. Among the items covered by both the 1990 and 1974 surveys were the following:

Prosecutorial Responsibility for Nonfelony Matters, 1974 and 1990 [table]

• In 1990, 86 per cent of the chief prosecutors had a four-year term of office, an increase from 79 per cent in 1974. In the earlier survey 16 per cent of the chief prosecutors were serving a two-year term; by 1990, that percentage had fallen to about five per cent.

• In 1990 over half (53%) the prosecutors worked at their position full-time. In 1974, 44 per cent of the prosecutors were full-time.

• In 1990 half of the full-time chief prosecutors had at least one assistant. Thirty-seven per cent had more than two assistants. Of these assistants 87 per cent were full-time. In 1974, 37 per cent of the full-time chief prosecutors had at least one assistant and 21 per cent had more than two; of the assistants 77 per cent were employed full-time.

• In 1990, 36 per cent of the chief prosecutors maintained formal control over plea bargaining, a decrease from 80 per cent in 1974.

• Prosecutors had more extensive contact in 1990 than in 1974 with interested parties in felony cases - witnesses, testifying police officers, and victims. In 1990, 95 per cent of the chief prosecutors routinely notified witnesses when to appear, and 93 per cent usually told the police and victims about the results of a case. In 1974, 77 per cent routinely notified witnesses, 44 per cent routinely reported the case outcome to the police, and 35 per cent routinely notified the victim.

• Comparing responses in 1974 and 1990, no significant differences separated the percentages of prosecutors reporting the responsibilities of citizen complaints (87% ), traffic infractions (86% ), and juveniles (84%).

• Almost all prosecutors (97%) in 1990 handled extradition, a nonfelony matter. In 1974, 88 per cent of prosecutors had responsibility for extraditions.

• In both 1990 and 1974, about two-thirds of the chief prosecutors were notified of a felony arrest within 24 hours.

This article was based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Prosecutors in State Courts, 1990," NCJ-134500. Copies of the entire report are available through the Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit of the Justice Center.